A lot of money for infrastructure but not aid in the event of a pandemic in the budgets proposed by Guillory • The current
The essential: In two budgets proposed on Tuesday, the Guillory administration provided funds for infrastructure and downtown Lafayette. But in its bailout budget, the administration allocated little to no money for direct economic aid, housing or the fight against the pandemic.
Catch up, quick. President-Mayor Josh Guillory presented two budgets to city and parish councils at a special joint meeting on Tuesday evening: LCG’s annual operating and capital budget, proposed at $ 629 million, and a budget plan of $ 86. million dollars in funds received from the American Rescue Plan Act. (ARPA), the $ 1.9 trillion stimulus and stimulus package adopted by the Biden administration earlier this year.
Indeed, these are treated as tandem budgets. Guillory has fulfilled his ARPA priorities with the projects requested by board members for the regular budgeting process, which means he’s not focusing much on the pandemic-specific uses outlined by the federal government in its guidelines. interim expenses.
Infrastructure is a high priority in both documents. As proposed, the city of Lafayette would budget $ 72 million in investment spending for public infrastructure in the regular operating budget. Well over half of LCG’s $ 86 million ARPA budget would go to drainage or roads – federal guidelines on eligibility for highway projects are unclear – and much of the projects described in sections of the plan relating to them. public safety and “competitive investments” go to infrastructure. also: sidewalks, a skate park and lighting upgrades.
Downtown is (would be) a big winner. The administration proposed to use $ 12.5 million for downtown drainage, the largest item in ARPA’s budget – more than double what is proposed for city-wide drainage. the city in the bailout – and $ 29.5 million in five-year capital spending for two new parking lots for the district in the annual budget. Also in the ARPA plan, LCG offered $ 500,000 to reimagine the grassy triangle recently freed by the Jim Crow-era statue of Confederate General Alfred Mouton. Guillory positions downtown investments as a way to reorient the city’s growth models and revitalize Lafayette’s urban core.
Stormwater management and housing were the top two priorities reported by readers in our ongoing ARPA survey. You can still participate here.
“Lafayette grew up and we should have grown up” Guillory said Tuesday night. Guillory’s proposals include spending for the extension and widening of roads.
Housing, health care and the pandemic are all but sidelined. Their absence is more obvious in the ARPA budget. The US Treasury has highlighted public health spending, economic aid to small businesses and households, and payment of essential workers among its specified uses. Lafayette has received more than $ 16 million in rent and utility assistance and has struggled to complete the small business assistance program he launched last year. LCG also earmarked $ 1.4 million in federal funding Tuesday night for nonprofits, the bulk of which will go to tackling homelessness and housing insecurity. Still, advocates say funding is falling short of the problem, as housing affordability remains problematic and the number of homeless people far exceeds the number of available shelters.
“A budget is ultimately a reflection of our values, and this one shows more concern for the condition of our sidewalks than those who sleep and die there, ”said Kim Boudreaux, Executive Director of Catholic Charities of Acadiana. “While investment in infrastructure is essential and necessary, funding should also be considered for those who are not meeting their basic needs during this public health crisis. ”
Homeless intervention providers decided not to return to a shelter to come togetherg because of the surge in coronavirus cases in the region, Boudreaux says. The area was already below its normal shelter capacity before the pandemic. At one point, hundreds of people were staying in hotels, turned into shelters for non-congregations. This program is coming to an end, but the lack of affordable housing on the market has slowed the efforts of social workers to move people into homes. Boudreaux says suppliers need the money to maintain the hotel program.
“We already have robust programs in place to help small business and housing stabilization, ”LCG communications director Jamie Angelle said via email, noting the tranche of funding intended for rent assistance. “Mayor-President Guillory has put forward a very strong and fair proposal for the use of these funds, and the administration is encouraging dialogue and welcoming additional contributions over the next four weeks.”
Black leaders reject the proposal. At a town hall on Wednesday hosted by city council members Pat Lewis and Glenn Lazard, residents excoriated the administration’s proposal to exclude council and public input and ignore worsened quality of life needs by the pandemic. ARPA’s budget includes some infrastructure upgrades for LCG parks, but none to restore the drastic cuts to the park workforce made last year over outrage from black leaders.
“I think I don’t like anything” says Marja Broussard, vice president of state for the NAACP. “We know we can restore all cuts [to parks and recreation] he’s been doing since he’s been there. All workers. He can invest money in safe and hygienic housing.
Wish list. The inclusion of projects championed by council members eased some tensions over the deployment of ARPA’s budget. Council members were surprised by the administration’s decision to formally introduce a separate ARPA budget, which they saw only hours before the package was introduced. They decided to postpone final adoption of ARPA’s budget until August 17, while Guillory insisted on the urgency. Without this delay, the councils would have jointly adopted the ARPA budget within two weeks.
“It’s still very new” said City Councilor Josh Carlson, who raised flags on the administration’s ARPA calendar last week. Carlson said about 95% of the projects he requested fell between the two budgets. “I was pleasantly surprised. ”
All of this is subject to change. Council members have the discretion to change both budgets, with a tentative deadline of Aug. 17 on ARPA money for final adoption. And the administration noted in its ARPA proposal that the guidelines for these expenses could change. Eligibility criteria for road projects, for example, remain unclear. Boards could postpone ARPA’s funding vote again for further discussion. The final adoption of the operating budget is scheduled for September 9.